Vulnerable groups such as health care workers in 145 countries are set to receive COVID-19 shots in the first half of this year, according to a global vaccination program’s distribution plan released Wednesday.
Under the program, Pfizer-BioNTech intends to deliver about 1.2 million doses of its vaccine, which requires ultra-cold chain storage, to 18 countries in the first quarter of the year. The vaccine maker has agreed to donate 40 million doses to COVAX, a vaccine pillar aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 testing and treatment.
Another 336 million doses of the AstraZeneca–Oxford vaccine will be shipped to nearly all other countries covered under COVAX, ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, once the United Nations health agency has approved it for use.
“We must get this right”, said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director, according to UN News. “Our country offices will support governments as they move forward with this first wave to ensure that they are ready to receive the vaccines that require ultra-cold chain [storage].
“This includes ensuring that health workers are fully trained in how to store and handle the vaccines,” she said. “Many of these doses will go to health workers in urban areas who are at the highest risk of exposure to COVID-19 infections.”
Ms. Fore also said Wednesday that UNICEF has been stockpiling half a billion syringes and collaborating with airlines, governments and other agencies to work out possible supply issues, UN News reported. For example, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which are receiving Pfizer’s shots, will be supplied with eight refrigerators to store the vaccine doses in temperatures as low as -80 degrees Celsius.
UNICEF has also reportedly signed a deal with the Serum Institute of India securing 1.1 billion COVID-19 vaccine doses for about 100 countries. The deal involves both AstraZeneca–Oxford and Novavax vaccines, which still need to receive approval from WHO.
Vaccine doses will cost about $3 each for low- and middle-income countries, Ms. Fore said.